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Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage

Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage
© Greg Nash

The House Freedom Caucus has endorsed a deal with GOP leadership to support a short-term government funding bill, putting the House on track to pass the stopgap measure Thursday night and send it to the Senate.

The caucus endorsed the deal Thursday night, after warning they had the votes to defeat it earlier in the day.

While the deal sets the stage for House passage, it does not ensure that Congress will avoid a government shutdown Friday night.

Senate Democrats, supported by at least three Republicans, said they have the votes to block the initial House bill in the upper chamber. And the new changes, designed to attract conservatives, could alienate even more Senate Democrats.

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Still, Republicans are at least on track to approve a funding bill in the House, in hopes of putting pressure on Senate Democrats to back down. 

The deal came after Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Farm bill negotiators should take advantage of the moment Conservative rep slams Rosenstein's 'conflicts of interest' MORE (R-N.C.) emerged from a meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Will the Federal Reserve make a mistake by shifting to inflation? Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  MORE’s (R-Wis.) office saying leadership had promised to have separate votes to help improve military readiness and address other national security issues. They would not be attached to the stopgap continuing resolution (CR), he added.

"Obviously, I would be recommending to our caucus, based on what I just heard, that we support the president in this particular initiative," he said.

Meadows outlined the contours of the deal to reporters just before the House floor vote Thursday night on the continuing resolution.

In exchange for Freedom Caucus support on the funding bill, Meadows said leadership promised to hold a vote within the next 10 legislative days on a defense spending bill that busts the spending caps for defense programs.

"Our major ask in all of this has been that we break this cycle that has held our military hostage," Meadows said.

A source familiar with the discussion noted that leadership had already made that commitment to House Armed Services Committee members a day earlier.

Leaders also pledged to "work aggressively" to whip an immigration bill authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week Fusion GPS co-founder pleads the Fifth following House GOP subpoena MORE (R-Va.) and to bring conservative immigration legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks. Ryan and his top lieutenants, who have been publicly supportive of the Goodlatte bill, agreed to put together a team to help work the measure harder.

But the legislation has to be able to secure 218 GOP votes to get a floor vote. Meadows predicted that the measure that winds up being put on the floor will look like a modified version of the Goodlatte bill.

Some Republicans had taken issue with a provision in the Goodlatte measure requiring employers taking advantage of an agricultural guest worker program to use "E-verify" to ensure they only hire legal employees.

The proposals floated in the Freedom Caucus deal were offered by GOP leadership, but have the stamp of approval from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE, according to Meadows.

"There are certainly a lot of subplots that I am not articulating right now that we did get, that... I will not be mentioning in terms of other things,” he said.

Meadows also asked GOP leaders to release a classified report from the House Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the discussion, but his request was rejected on the grounds that they can’t skirt House rules.

The Speaker deferred to Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesJuan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy Senate Dem: Trump's 'fake, hyperbolic rantings' an insult to real Medal of Honor recipients MORE (R-Calif.) on the issue.

Bloomberg reported that the classified information in question was a memo put together by Republicans on the panel, which reportedly shows political bias in the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Members of the Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners, were previously withholding their support from the House GOP bill, despite a call from Trump into their meeting Thursday afternoon.

The White House said in a statement that Trump backed the House bill.

The House vote on the CR is scheduled for Thursday evening and the caucus warned earlier in the day they had enough opposition to sink its passage in the House.

However, Meadows had strongly suggested that he would accept the new deal.

"[Ryan] put forth a few things for our caucus to consider that would actually be beneficial to the military and our focus on the military needs going forward," Meadows said.

Meadows then urged the rest of the caucus to accept the offer. The group met in Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Nellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels Meadows calls on Rosenstein to resign 'immediately' MORE’s (R-Ohio) office to take a vote.

Updated: 8:41 p.m.